Sunday, September 20, 2015

Glass Half Fuller DNA

First Landing of the Pilgrims, 1620. Charles Lucey, 1859, engraver T. Phillibrown.
A few months ago I wrote about my possible descent from Mayflower passengers Edward Fuller (abt 1575-1621), his unnamed wife, and their son Samuel Fuller (abt 1608-1683). Click here to read that post. I traced a line of descent down to a Lorin Fuller  (born 1798). Then I traced a line of ascent through my paternal grandmother’s line up to a Loring Fuller (1798-1863) and looked at the possibility that Lorin Fuller and Loring Fuller were the same person.

I reached the conclusion that they were the same and that I’m a direct descendant of three Mayflower passengers. But that conclusion was based on probabilities. The evidence is not rock solid.

Can DNA shed any light?

I took a DNA test through the website Ancestry.com. With the results of my test, Ancestry.com provided me with a long list of people whose DNA has portions matching my DNA.

I searched through all the DNA matches for Fuller relatives and came up with some results:

— One DNA match claims to be descended from Mayflower passengers Edward Fuller and his wife (name unknown) through their Mayflower passenger son Samuel Fuller.

— Seven DNA matches claim to be descended from Mayflower passengers Edward Fuller and his wife through their son Matthew Fuller (abt 1603-1678), who was not a Mayflower passenger, but arrived in North America a few years after the Mayflower landing.

— Two DNA matches claim to be descended from Mayflower passenger Samuel Fuller (bef 1580-1633), the brother of Mayflower passenger Edward Fuller.

— Two DNA matches claim to be descended from Robert Fuller (abt 1548-bef 1614) and Sarah Dunckhorne Fuller (1558-bef 1584), the parents of Mayflower passenger Edward Fuller, through their other son Thomas Fuller (1573-1659), who seems not to have left England.

— One DNA match claims to be descended from Loring Fuller (1798-1863), my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, but this matching person believes that this Loring is a descendant of Matthew Fuller, son of Mayflower passengers Edward Fuller and his wife. I believe this line of descent from Matthew Fuller to Loring of Ohio to be an error, as I discussed in my previous post on the Fullers.

In total those are thirteen DNA matches to people claiming to be descended in one way or another from the family of Mayflower passenger Edward Fuller. There may be others in the list provided to me by Ancestry.com. But so far I haven’t found them. Thirteen seems like a nice pool of evidence to support my line of descent from Edward Fuller.

But that pool of evidence might not be as large as it seems.

The final match in the list claims descent from Loring Fuller. But Loring Fuller is the weak link in the chain between Mayflower passenger Edward Fuller and me. This is the link I’m hoping this DNA information will strengthen. So I can’t count this DNA match in the pool of evidence.

That leaves twelve DNA matches claiming Fuller descent.

The results of DNA testing say these people and I are related. But the results don’t tell me how.

To figure out how, I have to find our common ancestors. My primary technique so far has been to search their family trees for names that are also on my tree. That technique is subject to error.

I haven’t verified that the family trees of these DNA matches are correct. Any of them could have done sloppy research. Any of them could have invalid information.

Two of the matches in the list claim descent from Thomas Fuller, brother of Mayflower passenger Edward Fuller. I’ve seen documentation that Edward had a brother Thomas. But Thomas remained in England, and I’ve seen no documentation on Thomas’s descendants. Which of them sailed to North America? I’m not saying that none did, but I haven’t seen evidence. Is this a case of incorrect information on the part of these DNA matches?

Actually all of these DNA matches could have incorrect information in their family trees. And I could have incorrect information in my own family tree. I’m judicious in adding names to it, but I don’t have rock solid documentation for every one. So if lots of information is wrong, none of us might be related to the Mayflower Fullers.

If I’m not connected to these DNA matches through the Fullers, however, that doesn’t mean we’re not related. It only means we’re connected along other lines. Other lines of connection show up for some of these DNA matches.

The first DNA match above, initials W.G., who claims direct descent from Edward Fuller and his wife, also claims descent from John Porter (1594-1648) and Anna White Porter (1600-1647). The Porters are in my family tree, too, as my ten times great-grandparents. So that means my connection to W.G. might be only through the Porters and not through the Fullers.

Of the seven DNA matches through Matthew Fuller, two of them have other ancestors in common with me. One, like the W.G. I just discussed, also claims descent from John Porter and Anna White Porter. The other claims descent through Samuel Rider (abt 1601-1679) and Anne Gamlett Rider (abt 1605-1695), my nine times great-grandparents, as well as through my nine times great-grandparents Thomas Pratt (abt 1636-1692) and Susannah Gleason Pratt (b. 1636). This DNA match and I might only be connected through the Riders or the Pratts, or both, rather than the Fullers.

Of course, all the connections—the Fullers AND the Porters AND the Riders AND the Pratts—could be valid. Right now, I just don’t know.

To further complicate matters, there are chances for false positives and coincidences in DNA testing. Maybe there are false positives and coincidences among these twelve DNA matches, but if there are, I highly doubt all twelve fall into those categories.

The DNA test results don’t prove how I’m related to these people. But in the end I lean toward the idea that twelve DNA matches are enough, even if some are wrong, to support my relationship to the Mayflower Fullers. I still don't have rock solid evidence, by any means. But somehow I’m related to those matches. At this point the Fuller way seems as valid as any other way.

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Postscript: I was surprised to find that one of the DNA matches in the list who claims descent from Matthew Fuller is also connected to me by marriage in another line. Judith (last name unrevealed for privacy reasons), the ten times great-granddaughter of Mayflower passenger Edward Fuller, who is also my tenth cousin once removed on my father’s side, was the niece of the wife of Ninja John Herttua (1897-1935), my first cousin three times removed on my mother’s side.

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